Blog

Which Business Process Analysis Template Works for What Type of Project

By Cathy Dew on January 5, 2017

The first blog of this series provided a basic overview of Business Process Analysis. It describes some of the high-level tools and templates that are used by business process analysts. For each tool available there exists a defined purpose with very specific outcomes. Not only do tools align nicely with specific phases in a project, they also correspond with types and characteristics of projects.

The Grid

Here is a handy tool to help you assess what type of tool is right for your project. The idea is to give you a quick view to the best business process mapping tools based on the type of project you have.

# Business Process Analysis Template Business Process Analysis Step Website Feature Enterprise Intranet Department App Enterprise Software
1 Surveys Gather general information Maybe Yes Maybe Maybe
2 Personas Generalize process participants into personas Maybe Yes Yes Yes
3 Questionnaires Prep participants with questions Yes Yes Yes Yes
4 Interviews Conduct interviews and document results Yes Yes Yes Yes
5 Flow Diagram
IPO Chart
Document the business process Maybe Yes Yes* Yes*
6 Requirements v.1 Write-up requirements Maybe Yes Yes* Yes*
7 Requirements v.2 Compile, consolidate and prioritize requirements Maybe Yes Yes* Yes*
8 RFP
Functional Spec
Develop RFP or spec Not likely Not likely Yes* Yes*
 

Here is a quick recap of four different categories of projects presented:

Website Feature

This could be as simple as a call to action to download a whitepaper or as complex as a purchase path that has several steps to get to before completion. The focus of a business process analysis project is to look closely at a business process. As seen in the grid, even a website feature that has a flow with a beginning, middle and end can be improved. Specifically, in the creation of questionnaires a more efficient approach through the business process analysis involves having less than 10 targeted interviews with actual or representative end customers. This can provide the information you need to improve the flow, the process of completing a form and downloading an asset.

Why BPA?

The target of business process analysis is the process itself –  which is comprised of a series of tasks. There is often a lifecycle and an exchange of data, information or assets that are exchanged, augmented and transformed across a group of stakeholders.

BusinessDictionary.com has a good definition of process analysis

A step-by-step breakdown of business process analysis steps, used to convey the inputs, outputs, and operations that take place during each phase. A process analysis can be used to improve understanding of how the process operates, and to determine potential targets for process improvement through removing waste and increasing efficiency.

Enterprise Intranet

A company intranet is a private network accessible only to employees or internal users. Effective intranets provide a wide range of information and services to its employees including the automation of any number of processes. From requesting time off to supporting team collaboration to simply making information easily accessible, there are lots of opportunities to better leverage business process analysis tools for improving your intranet. Providing employees easier access to data and tools can have a significant impact on the wellbeing and success of an organization.

Surveys can be used to quickly gather large amounts of quantitative data. Personas can be used to consolidate the employees of a company into a few archetype users. Usually this consists of three to six users that can help identify and clearly focus on the most important processes surrounding your intranet. Questionnaires and interviews can be conducted one on one or in small groups. For complex processes, the business process mapping tools that you may want to consider are flow diagrams and Input-Process-Output (IPO) diagrams.

What is a Persona?

As always, Wikipedia is a source of a comprehensive overview of the term persona.

A persona (plural personae or personas), in the word's everyday usage, is a social role or a character played by an actor. The word is derived from Latin, where it originally referred to a theatrical mask. The Latin word probably derived from the Etruscan word "phersu", with the same meaning, and that from the Greek πρόσωπον (prosōpon).

Alan Cooper introduced personas in his book The Inmates Are Running the Asylum (1998). Cooper play-acted fictitious characters in order to help solve design questions.

Departmental Application

Within an organization there are lots of specific, focused business processes designed to get work done. These processes typically evolve over time and are largely defined by the actual people going through the steps. The effectiveness and efficiency of those processes are highly dependent on the skills of the participants. In many cases the processes cross departmental boundaries. Communication across departments as well as an overall understanding of the impact of the process may be limited company wide. For example, the process to design and launch a new product or manage access to a company’s international bank accounts or process permits which are required to do business with your entity is complicated. There are various steps, people and data involved in the associated lifecycle. This is where the heavy lifting of business process analysis comes into play.

Process flow diagrams depict the lifecycle of processes in a visual format. Participating departments, people and systems are depicted as swim lanes (rows) in the process diagram. Inputs and outputs are documented. There is usually a visual distinction between manual and system processes. One of the most powerful aspects of the business process mapping tool is the magic that happens when all of the participants come together to review the diagram. The most effective way to conduct this type of review is to print out a large scale image. Roll it out on the conference table, which allows everyone access, so the group can review, update and ultimately approve.

Enterprise Software

Similar to departmental applications (only larger), enterprise software projects can only succeed if there is meaningful integration of the full suite of business process analysis tools. In addition to all of the tools discussed so far, enterprise software projects will need to have fully vetted, categorized and prioritized requirements that fully describe the desired system. If that software will be purchased from a vendor, you will need to develop a Request For Proposal (RFP). The requirements section is a critical tool in evaluating the vendor’s ability to deliver a system that will work for your organization.

Especially if the system will be developed internally or by a trusted custom software development partner, then the requirements become the driving force of a full system specification. The specification document serves to fully describe the system so that the development group (internal or external) can  prepare a budget and timeline. This document becomes the centerpiece for working with and garnering buy-in and approval from key stakeholders. Software is an adventure and with proper preparation it can be one helluva ride.

There is So Much More

Because there is so much more to say on the subject of business process analysis templates, we'd like to present the information in two ways. First we'd like to invite you to register for our next live webinar “Business Process Analysis checklist of approaches, techniques and tools used by the experts” which is happening Tuesday, January 10th at 10am PST and 1pm EST. Second, we will provide additional blogs where we will dig in and unpack each of the tools utilized, as referenced in the grid above.

Learn More about Business Process Analysis Templates

Ready to learn more about Business Process Analysis templates? Here are some great blogs with FREE downloadable templates for you to get started.
Cathy Dew
Cathy Dew – CEO + Information Architect
Cathy focuses the company on our mission – Real results. Every time. Information architect and strategist, Cathy is passionate about making software work well – the function, the feel, the result.